Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Welkinweir's Meadows

Welkinweir has a variety of habitats throughout the 197 acres.  Pond, wetland, stream, forest, and meadow each cater to the needs of different species.  Over the last few weeks, I took a few pictures of interesting plants blooming in the meadow areas.  We leave about 25 acres to grow into meadow, only mowing these areas once or twice a year.  This practice cuts down on the soil compaction, which in turn cuts down on stormwater runoff, with the added bonus of saving time and money that would have been spent on the fuel to run the mowing equipment.  Also, by leaving these areas undisturbed, different plant species are allowed to grow and flower, attracting a variety of insect life.  Certain species of birds that like to hunt in the open soon come to visit.  Species diversity abounds when meadows are present.

Clover is a nectar source for bees and butterflies, and being in the pea family, it can also take nitrogen from the atmosphere and fix it into the soil where it can be used by the clover and the surrounding plants.

Some people think this plant is the cause of hay fever, but in fact the culprit is ragweed, which blooms about the same time but is not nearly as pretty as goldenrod.  Goldenrod is a nectar source for many different species.  This one was covered in all sorts of insects.  

I think this beauty is a primrose of sorts.  Apparently they used to be grown in vegetable gardens since the shoots and maybe even the roots and seeds of some species are edible when cooked.
L: Asclepias tuberosa, orange milkweed. R: Asclepias syriaca, common milkweed  
Orange milkweed is a larval host plants for monarch butterflies, as well as queen and grey hairstreak.  Orange milkweed, despite its name, has no milky sap like common milkweed.  Native Americans used to chew the root to cure pleurisy and other pulmonary ailments such as bronchitis.  However, the sap and roots are poisonous if eaten in large quantities, so I'm not sure I would chew on it myself.  Common milkweed is a host only for monarch butterflies, and apparently you can cook and eat those firm, other worldly looking seed pods.  Again, the sap is toxic, so I don't think I would ever be hungry enough to try that.  All of these fun facts were found on http://www.wildflower.org/.

And finally, thistle.  I love thistle flowers, and so do the swallowtail butterflies.  Interestingly enough, many of the plants we consider weeds have a history of medicinal uses and many of their parts are edible.  I love the meadows at Welkinweir this time of year where the "weeds" are allowed to just be themselves.  To me, the meadows are much more beautiful than perfectly mowed green lawn, because the meadows are filled with color and with life.

Come visit Welkinweir! http://welkinweir.org/

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